For many Hannibal fans, most familiar with the Red Dragon/Manhunter cycle, the story starts here, with the cannibalistic killer behind bars, and profiler Will Graham coming to him for help in the case of The Tooth Fairy, the serial killer who strikes at whole families when the moon is full. Hannibal, bored with his other visitors who he describes, ahem, as ‘pencil-lickers’, agrees to help Will discover how the Tooth Fairy chooses his victims. “We still help our families when we can” he says. From the safety of his rococo cell, Hannibal can’t possibly do any more harm – can he?
Will, shaken by his encounter, discusses Hannibal with his jailor Alana. Surprisingly, we learn, she’s still with Margot Verger, and in fact has carried a Verger baby for them. Alana threatens to deprive Hannibal of his privileges if he harms Will, but we feel this brings her closer to her inevitable doom.
Will returns to Hannibal, imagining himself in Hannibal’s consulting rooms, and they discuss the idea that The Tooth Fairy is somehow disfigured, or imagines himself to be. (Dolarhyde does have something of a hare lip, but is hardly disfigured).
Hannibal draws parallels between The Tooth Fairy’s attraction to perfect families, Will’s urge to adopt a family, and Hannibal’s attempt to create a family using Abigail. Imagining himself at the crime scenes with Hannibal, Will envisions himself as part of the murdered families, and as the nude, blood-spattered Dolarhyde standing outside in the moonlight. The discovery of a dead cat and an injured dog at the crime scenes suggests that The Tooth Fairy is driven to harm the victims’ pets.
The dead cat buried in the garden seems to upset FBI pathologist Jimmy more than the dead family. ‘I’m particularly fond of cats, I’m not particularly fond of children’ he explains. Good old Jimmy.
Meanwhile Dolarhyde himself is reliving his tortured childhood, and imagining himself mutating into the tailed Red Dragon.
In flashback, we see Hannibal faking the death of Abigail Hyde, taking blood from her and spraying it at the crime scene, telling her that her father loved her, although he had a funny way of showing it by cutting her throat. He gives her the chance to return the compliment to her dead father; he’s bringing her along with him, trying to make her part of his family, rather than coercing her.
Back in the present, Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki), unscrupulous flame-haired journalist for tabloid TattleCrime, confronts Will at the crime scene and threatens to publish the fact that he has been consulting Hannibal. She refers to Will as a ‘federal manhunter’ – a little nod to the movie version of Red Dragon. (Great to see Freddie, Hannibal’s own Rebecca Brooks, stepping back into the limelight). Dolarhyde takes a keen interest in Freddie’s report.
For the first time we see Dolarhyde interacting with someone other than a victim. He approaches blind colleague Reba (Rutina Wesley) for infra-red film (it’s important to the plot that Dolarhyde uses old-fashioned film, so we have to have a little joke about how no-one around is a fan of digital formats). He takes her home and almost seems to bond with her, but her realisation that he has a speech impediment touches a raw nerve.
Will calls Molly, who still seems remarkably sympathetic to his situation, but his nightmarish visions of himself as The Tooth Fairy are getting worse, and it’s little help (though no surprise) that he has adopted the injured dog.
Jack Crawford goes to visit Hannibal, who accuses “You’ve placed Will back in the pot, and you’re letting him cook” – to which Crawford replies ‘We’re all in this stew together, Doctor’ – one of the best laugh-out-loud lines of the series so far. “It takes one to catch one” admits Crawford – Will has never been more effective than he is with Hannibal inside his head.
Finally, Dolarhyde phones Hannibal, masquerading as his lawyer, expresses his admiration, and explains what he is becoming – The Red Dragon. Hannibal’s plot advances.
Particularly heavy on black humour, this episode’s play on the theme of family is calculated to rub the raw nerves of the ‘breeders’ Hannibal refers to. Is a family, we’re asked, drawn together because of its genes, or because of shared insanity? A little of both, we suspect. Next week The Red Dragon will surely strike again. That will put the (dead) cat among the pigeons.
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